Mono.Kultur # 22
Ai Weiwei


Staple bound, 200mm x 150mm
40 pages, mono & full colour plates
Pull-out double sided poster
ISSN: 1861-7085
Published by Mono.Kultur

"I think just walking in the other direction is a smart choice."

Ai Weiwei grew up under horrible conditions, living literally underground in a burrow in the Chinese regions of Manchuria and Xinjiang. Born in 1957 in Beijing, Ai Weiwei was the son of Ai Qing, a renowned poet denounced by the Chinese Communist Party and during the Cultural Revolution forced into exile in a labour camp. Under strong political control, his father had to clean public toilets.

In 1976, after Mao’s death, Ai Qing was rehabilitated and, two years later, Ai Weiwei enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy and became active as a member of the famous group Stars. These few self-taught artists made history in 1979 by displaying provocative and subversive works of art right on the steps of the National Gallery in Beijing. Soon after, they were an international sensation.

In order to become ‘another Picasso’, he set out in 1981 for the United States. But once in New York City, he wasn’t producing a particular body of art. He studied at the Parsons School of Design for a short period, lived next to Allen Ginsberg and was working as a card dealer besides other odd jobs. During his 12 years in the US, he documented his life there with thousands of photos.

[...] Parallel to this first social sculpture and maybe reinforced by what he had learned from it, Ai Weiwei’s role as a cultural and social commentator, as a political activist and critic of the government has only intensified ever since. Weiwei's blog is his platform for spreading social criticism, discussing ideas and initiating investigations. His constant criticism of the repressive system in China has put him under police observation and led to his arrest on several occasions, but these intimidation tactics seem only to amplify his importance as a spokesman for a new generation.

Words. Extract from interview by Mathieu Wellner